When snow and harsh winter temperatures fill your days, nothing will warm you faster than a hot beverage. While you're enjoying your refreshment, it would be a wonderful time to make some country crafts. This week I have directions for cup and pot holders, filled with crushed cinnamon sticks and other spices. They not only protect your furniture and counters, but when a hot or warm object is placed on them, they release the most wonderful smells. In addition, I have some tips for using cinnamon sticks and candy canes to add a light flavor to some of our favorite hot beverages.
Country Cup and Pot Holders
Supplies: Fabric squares (4 1/2 x4 1/2 inches for cup holders and 7x9 for pot holders) patterned and plan fabric, fabric paint, chunky style stamps, ribbon for hanging, quilt batting (4x4 for cup holders and 6 1/2x8 1/2 for pot holders) 2 pieces per holder, crushed cinnamon sticks, whole or crushed cloves and bay leaves, needle and thread.
- If you choose to stamp a design on your fabric that will be your first step. Place fabric on a piece of cardboard or plastic that paint will not ruin if it bleeds through. Stamp your design paint any embellishments that you choose and let dry fully. If you are not painting your fabric you can begin with the next step.
- Using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, crush your cinnamon sticks.
- In a small bowl, mix together your crushed cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves.
- Sprinkle spice mixture on one layer of batting and top with another layer of batting, set aside.
- Lay your fabric pieces right sides together.
- Beginning 1 1/2 inches from center on one side, sew all the way around your fabric piece, leaving 1/4 seam allowance. Sew until you get to the same side you started on. This time, stop sewing 1 1/2 inches from center on the opposite side of where you started. You will end with all sides sewn together and a 3 inch opening from where you started and ended.
- Using the opening, insert your fingers and turn your holder right side out.
- Roll your batting and spice sandwich tightly then put inside your holder through the opening and unroll. Using your hands flatten out, take care to line up the corners, use a pencil or other small object to make your corners sharp.
- Cut a piece of ribbon and fold in half for hanging. Place in opening and attach when you sew your holder closed.
- Fold your seam allowance in and hand sew your opening closed.
I love cinnamon: how it smells, tastes and seems to add the perfect country look to almost anything. Here are a few ideas on how to use cinnamon sticks in your home. Cinnamon has also recently been proven to be beneficial to your diet.
- Cinnamon sticks grouped together and tied with a ribbon on a window sill, side table or counter has a great country look and helps freshen stale winter air.
- Put some cinnamon sticks in a basket with pine cones and you'll have an easy and attractive centerpiece for your coffee table.
- You can use your kitchen grater to finely grate cinnamon sticks for your favorite recipes. Apple pie, mix in with apple sauce, top whipped cream, hot cocoa or one of my favorites is to mix with some sugar and put on toast or pancakes.
- Put some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and orange peels in a pan on the kitchen stove or wood stove and let simmer all day to freshen your home with a delightful smell that will linger for days. Be sure to use a cast iron pan if you use your wood stove.
- Cinnamon sticks glued around a small glass candle jar will look very pretty when the candle is lit.
- Use whole sticks as a stirrer in your favorite hot beverage: green tea with a hint of cinnamon, coffee, hot apple cider or my little one's favorite: hot cocoa. He likes to use the cinnamon stick as a straw. I must admit it is delicious. You can reuse your stick two or three times, just be sure to rinse well before and after each use.
My last tip for today: For some reason, each year as Christmas approaches, my kids beg for me to buy candy canes; they will eat them all this year, they promise. Yet, each year as I take down the tree, I am left with almost as many candy canes as I originally hung. In an attempt to use them, I am constantly trying to find a use for them. I have crushed them and mixed them with ice-cream and topped on cupcakes. As I was taste-testing ideas for this column, my son Mason and I decided to try putting a candy cane in some hot cocoa. Why have I not done this before, I ask myself. So, to use up any remaining candy canes you may have, try putting them in your hot cocoa. It is like two treats in one and it gives the perfect peppermint hint to your beverage. One word of caution is it can get very sticky.
Wishing you all a most wonderful, happy, healthy and safe 2011. Happy New Year from my family to yours.